Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Vicki looked out of the window of the hover coach at the teeming rain. Beside her, Sukie tried to be ladylike and mature as she sucked on a straw inserted into a carton of orange juice. There were sounds all around them of packed lunches being eaten, sandwiches being taken from paper wrappings and bags of crisps opened. She bit into the apple that was in her lunch box and closed her eyes. She concentrated on the different sensations: the taste of the apple, the smell of Jimmy’s corned beef sandwiches, the sound of the rain drumming on the roof of the coach, the feel of her new shoes that still felt a little heavy and stiff on her feet.

Each and every sensation could be focussed upon and concentrated so that it overwhelmed everything else, drowned her senses. Corned beef, butter and bread filled her mind. She moved on from there, quickly. She didn’t like corned beef very much. Her sandwiches had been Assalian goat cheese and sun-dried Macalian ground tomatoes. They tasted delicious and contained a perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates and essential vitamins for a twelve year old girl on a school outing.

She moved on to the sound of the rain. It was the sort of rain that was never going to stop all day. It had started before she was awake, and was so bad that cycling to the school to meet the coach had been out of the question. She and Sukie had caused a bit of a sensation when Davie picked them both up and drove them to the school gates in his antique sports car. She almost fell out with Sukie over it, though, as the coach moved slowly through the morning rush hour traffic towards the M25. She thought twenty minutes was more than long enough to talk about cars.

“What are you doing now?” she asked telepathically as another rhythmic sound merged with the drumbeat of the rain, a quieter, but sharper sound. It was Sukie using her mini-laptop computer, her nimble fingers flying over the keys rapidly, though not so rapidly as Vicki knew she could type. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself.

“I’m sending an email to Earl,” she answered.

“He lives in the twenty-sixth century,” Vicki pointed out. “How can you send him an email?”

“Temporal overlay,” Sukie answered. “He sent one to me, first. I don’t even have to be online to do it. Once the link is established, the messages send and receive retrospectively. It’s a great idea.”

“It’s a bad idea. He’s seventeen. And Jimmy is supposed to be your boyfriend.”

“I’m twelve,” Sukie countered. “I don’t have boyfriends. I have friends who happen to be boys… and seventeen year old young men.”

“Still not a good idea.”

“Maybe not. But I like him. And I like writing to him. Are you going to tell on me?”

“Of course not. Besides, Chris and Davie both know about him. They’ll put a stop to it if they think he’s paying you too much attention.”

Sukie did the psychic equivalent of putting out her tongue to Vicki, proving that she was still a twelve year old girl after all. Vicki replied with the psychic equivalent of a tickle under the ribs and both girls laughed out loud.

“What are you two giggling about?” Jimmy Forrester asked, leaning over the seat in front of them. “Daft girls.”

Sukie laughed even more and asked Jimmy if he wanted her last cheese sandwich. She knew he was hungry, still, and the Assalian goat cheese would be good for him.

He took the sandwich and sat down again.

“If he’s not your boyfriend, why are you so worried about whether he eats or not?” Vicki teased. But Sukie wasn’t rising to it. She sent her email and then sat back in her seat looking out of the window at the rain as the coach drove along a rather dull, featureless stretch of tarmac road. She knew there was some beautiful scenery somewhere out there. She had a vague impression of green fields, a darker green of trees, and the bulk of some hills in the distance, but it was all blurred and obscured by the low lying clouds from where all this rain was coming.

“Why is it,” she said after a while. “More than three hundred years after the invention of the internal combustion engine, it still takes over five hours to drive from London to Aberystwyth? We ought to have something faster than a hover coach by now.”

Vicki agreed. But she knew as well as Sukie did why their transport was no faster than something from the twenty-first century where her mother came from. Human technology was set back by the Dalek invasion nearly fifty years before she was born. Scientists and engineers were either killed or enslaved by the Daleks. Records were destroyed, knowledge was lost. Two generations later, the Human race was still playing catch up.

“It’s going to catch up quickly, soon,” Sukie told her. “Davie’s solar energy project is going to make a big difference to millions of people in a few years time. And he has some ideas about fuel additives that will make cars and buses run even more economically than they do now. And we know from talking to Tristie and Earl that static transmat technology is only about a hundred and fifty years away. Our children will be able to get to Aberystwyth or Aberdeen or anywhere in a few minutes.”

“They’ll probably complain about the traffic jams on the way to the transmat depot,” Vicki remarked. “Where are we, anyway?”

“We’re in the Brecon Beacons, coming up to the Black Mountains. Remember what Davie told us about that area. He said we’d feel it.”

“Oh, yes. I’d forgotten.

A half hour later, they both knew exactly what Davie meant as the coach crossed a border that wasn’t marked on any Ordnance Survey map. They clutched hands as they felt the pressure on their telepathic nerves.

“Wow…” Vicki whispered. For a few seconds she couldn’t even focus her mind on Sukie’s inner voice right next to her. “It’s like… all the time, we’re aware of other telepaths in the background, on the edge of our minds. But now they’re all cut off from us. It feels lonely.”

“I can’t feel Chris and Davie,” Sukie said. “When they’re on Earth, at least, and in the same time zone, I can always feel them. I know they’re around somewhere. I sort of miss them.”

“It’s only about a thirty mile wide area,” Vicki said. “Twenty minutes driving, then we’ll be back to normal again. But it’s weird, isn’t it? A psychic blackspot. Daddy said it’s always been here. A natural phenomenon, something in the rock strata. Most people don’t even know it’s there. Only people with any kind of psychic power. And until Chris got so many of them together into his Sanctuary none of them ever really talked about these things.”

“I should make it a special project,” Sukie said. “Finding out about strange phenomena on planet Earth – the Bermuda Triangle, The Cardiff Rift, the Black Hills Blackspot. I can ask Earl about his Park project. That’s another one.”

“Sounds like an excuse for more emails to Earl, if you ask me,” Vicki responded. “But…” She frowned. “That’s funny. Why is the coach stopping?”

They didn’t seem to be anywhere in particular. It was just more vague green and brown scenery in the rain. There seemed no reason to have stopped.

Everyone was standing up and looking to see what was the matter. The headmaster stood at the front of the coach and told them all to sit down again. He had to say it twice before anyone obeyed. Then he turned to speak to the driver.

Vicki and Sukie both tuned in telepathically to the conversation and heard the driver say that the coach had just stopped dead, and he couldn’t make it start again. Mr Burns, the headmaster, told him to call the breakdown services. The driver tried his radio and reported that it was not working.

“That’s strange,” Vicki said. “I heard the driver talking on the radio about half an hour ago.” She reached into her pocket and looked at her mobile. “That’s funny, no signal.”

That’s creepy,” Sukie added. “No electronic communications and we’re still in the psychic blackspot. We’re totally cut off.”

“By what?”

Then Mr Burns swore, loudly, something that shocked all the students. He was the headmaster, after all. He began to run down the coach towards the emergency exit at the back, shouting to everyone to get off the coach, quickly. He, himself, reached the emergency door first and the alarm buzzer sounded as he opened it, but then he began to back away again. The students nearest to him began to scream. So did the ones at the front of the coach as the main door was opened from outside.

“Aliens!” somebody shouted.


“No, they’re not aliens,” Sukie whispered. “They’re Human.”

“Sometimes the monsters are Human,” Vicki commented as the bulky figures in masks moved down the coach. “That’s what daddy says.”

“Oh, no,” Sukie said. “They’ve got… gas… some kind of gas… they’re…”

Around them, their friends were coughing and choking and collapsing. Jimmy Forrester fell in the aisle beside their seat. Across the aisle, two second year girls, Gill Lansing and Hanna Beckett, tried to reach the air conditioning vents above their seat, but they collapsed awkwardly across each other.

Vicki closed off her lungs and recycled her breathing. But Sukie couldn’t do that. She had an ordinary Human respiratory system. She succumbed. As she did, her laptop slipped from her lap. Vicki caught it. She noticed that there was an email to Earl on the screen. Sukie had typed the word ‘help’ on it. Vicki pressed send and then quickly slumped over the computer as if she had fallen unconscious moments before one of the masked men passed their seat, counting them all and checking that they were all knocked out by the tranquilising gas.

They were doing something else, too. They were searching all the unconscious children and taking their mobile phones and computers. As they did so, the coach was moving again. Vicki carefully peered between the seats and saw one of the masked men in the driver’s seat. The driver was lying on the floor along with Mrs Daly, the music teacher.

Vicki carefully moved Sukie’s computer from her lap and slid it under her so that she was sitting on it. That wasn’t the best thing to do to a computer, of course, but it seemed the only way of ensuring it wasn’t taken. She kept very still as she and Sukie’s pockets and their bags were checked. It was horrible being touched by a stranger in that way, and she wanted to yell out, but she knew that would be foolish. She waited until it was all over and allowed herself a sigh of relief. She slid the mini laptop back onto her lap and kept still and quiet.

The coach was rocking as if it had come off the road and was driving over rough ground. They were being taken somewhere. Vicki wondered where, and why. She closed her eyes and concentrated, reaching into the minds of the masked men as they walked up and down the coach. She saw their thoughts. She wasn’t entirely surprised by what they were thinking. But it still dismayed her.

She heard one of the masked men call out something to his comrades. They all took off their masks. The air was clear now. Vicki allowed herself to breathe. It felt good after recycling her oxygen for so long. But she couldn’t do anything else. She couldn’t cry. She couldn’t call out. That would be very dangerous. It was hard to keep still and do nothing, though. She felt helpless and scared. She felt lonely. Sukie was unconscious. So were her school friends, her teachers. There was nobody who could help her.

She almost cried out when it suddenly went dark. The coach was inside a tunnel of some sort. It drove for about thirty seconds more in the dark before it stopped. The men moved to the back of the coach and Vicki heard the emergency buzzer again as they opened the door and got out. She kept still for half a minute, then carefully stood up and went to the back. She could see the men running away down the dark tunnel towards the grey daylight. Then there was a loud noise and a vibration that rocked the coach and the daylight disappeared.

She knew what had happened. Now, she cried. She felt so alone and helpless. And she felt as if she had let everyone down. She could have done something, couldn’t she?

Done what? She was one twelve year old girl. There were at least seven men and who knows how many more outside. What could she have done?

She went back to her seat. She sighed with relief as she saw Sukie starting to wake up. She helped her to sit up.

“What’s happened?” she asked. “Where are we?”

Vicki told her. Sukie bit her lip fearfully.


“They’re holding us to ransom, for money,” Vicki said. “That’s the plan that was in their heads. We’re hidden in some kind of tunnel. They sealed off the entrance with explosives. We’re trapped.”

“Do we have air?”

“I think we do,” Vicki answered. “There must be because we can breathe properly now. But we don’t have any food or drink apart from picnic leftovers and I don’t know how long they plan to keep us here.”

Sukie took the news philosophically.

“What should we do? What about everyone else?”

“They should wake up soon,” Vicki said. “They’ll be scared.”

“Should we try to see if there’s a way out? We could get help.”

“Let’s at least find out where we are,” Vicki decided. “I didn’t want to go on my own. But if you’re with me…”

They stepped over the unconscious forms of their friends and reached the open back door of the coach. They climbed down the steps onto a rough, rock floor.

“There are train tracks,” Sukie observed as she used a very small penlight torch on a keyring from her pocket. “Very old train tracks. All rusty and broken. It looks like some sort of abandoned railway tunnel.”

“Not an ordinary railway,” Vicki said. “Narrow gauge. Small trains. I think it must be something to do with mining. We’re in Wales, remember. There used to be coal mining years and years ago. They must have used a narrow gauge railway to carry the coal or maybe the miners.”

“Then this isn’t a tunnel with two ends like on a proper railway,” Sukie reasoned. “It must lead into the mine?”

They walked to the place where the entrance had been blown up. Even in the very tiny light they had they could see that it was completely blocked.

“It’s not very stable,” Sukie noted. “I think we should get well away from this in case it goes again.”

“Let’s see what’s at the other end.”

They walked back, past the coach, noting that it was a tight squeeze. The tunnel continued for about three hundred metres until they came to another blocked off section.

“That’s been like that for a long time,” Vicki commented as she touched the solid mass of debris. “They must have sealed off the mine when it was closed to stop people going in where it was dangerous.”

“That makes sense,” Sukie agreed. “But that means we’ve got no way out either end.”

“They have no way in to us, either. Those men. That’s good. They can’t come and… do anything to any of us.”

“They’ve done enough already. We’d better go back to the coach. Maybe some of the others will be waking up by now.”

They were. As they stepped back onto the coach, they could hear groaning and crying as their fellow students began to wake and pick themselves up from the floor and from awkward positions on their seats. The headmaster was using a battery torch to illuminate the coach and try to do a headcount of his students.

“Children, please sit down,” Mr Burns was saying. “Everyone, sit down, please, while I find out what has happened.” He turned and saw Sukie and Vicki coming back on board. “What have you two been doing outside? Go back to your seats at once.”

“We’ve been to see where we are,” Sukie answered him. “We’re in an old mine tunnel, sealed in.”

“What? Why on Earth are we…”

“We’ve been kidnapped,” Vicki said. “We’re being held for ransom for money. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve been sealed into this place until money is paid.”

“Don’t be silly, Vicki,” the headmaster replied. “Why would anyone do that?”

“Because they want money,” Vicki answered.

“Sir,” Gill Lansing said. “It’s so dark. I’m scared. Can the driver put the lights on?”

“Yes, of course, he can,” Mr Burns answered. “Yes, let’s do that.”

“No,” Vicki protested. “No, you can’t. You would waste the battery.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Mr Burns argued. “Not if the engine is running.”

“We’re in an enclosed space,” Sukie told him. “I think there is some air coming in, but only through really old vents that might not work very well. The coach engine has to stay switched off. Or we’ll all die of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

That had a bad effect on most of the other students, who became convinced they were about to die. Mr Burns shouted for silence rather tetchily.

“The little girl is correct, sir,” the driver said. “I can’t run the engine if we’re sealed in. I can put the lights on for a few minutes to make sure everyone is all right. But after that we’d better save the battery.”

That was a compromise they could accept. Vicki and Sukie went to their seats as the lights were put on. Everyone seemed to be all right. But they were all scared. Most of the girls and even some of the boys were crying.

Jimmy wasn’t. He was leaning over the seat to talk to the girls.

“Are we really being held to ransom?” he asked.

“Yes,” Vicki answered.

“Why? I mean, your dad’s rich. So that would sort of make sense. But why the rest of us? Nobody would pay money to get me back.”

Gill and Hanna heard him say that. They looked at Vicki and Sukie accusingly.

“Is this all about you? Because your dad has a big house and everything? Did they take all of us to get to you?”

“Of course it isn’t,” Vicki responded. “It’s about all of us. They’re not going to be demanding money from my father. They’ll be demanding it from the government. That’s why they grabbed all of us. A bus full of children. The government couldn’t say no. Because otherwise they’d be thought of as not caring.”

“That still comes down to you, Vicki,” said Gill. “Isn’t your uncle in the government?”

“You mean Christopher? Yes. He is. But that doesn’t mean anything.”

“The government doesn’t pay ransoms,” Jimmy said.

“Then what will happen to us?” Gill asked. She wasn't the only one. The lights were turned out again now and it was dark and frightening. Everyone was talking among themselves about what might happen to them.

“We could be here for days,” somebody said in the dark. “We’ve got nothing to eat or drink. We could die if they don’t come back for us – or if nobody finds us.”

“My father won’t just sit back and let us die,” Vicki said with certainty. “He’ll rescue us.”

Jimmy believed that. He had seen the TARDIS and knew what it was capable of. But nobody else knew the secret. They thought Vicki was just talking nonsense.

“He will rescue us,” Vicki insisted in a quiet voice. “He always has before.”

“But,” Sukie told her. “He doesn’t know where we are. We can’t communicate with anyone outside of the blackspot, remember.”

“He’ll know we’re missing. He’ll look for us.”

“But it could still take ages,” Sukie pointed out. “How long do you think we can hold out here?”

“Without any proper food or drink, only a couple of days,” Vicki answered. “Which means the kidnappers didn’t intend to wait around. They want their money really quickly. That or… they don’t care if we live or die anyway.”

“Vicki, stop saying things like that,” Hanna said. “You don’t know anything more about this than anyone.”

“Yes, I do,” she insisted. “I saw… I saw what they were thinking.”

Beside her, Sukie breathed in sharply. Vicki was giving them both away by saying these things. Jimmy was the only one in the school who knew that they were ‘different’ in any way other than being part of the advanced stream along with other students with above average intelligence. They both did their best to integrate with the rest of the school, joining different after school clubs like the choir and the rambling club and the school newspaper group. And they had succeeded, more or less. They were accepted as ‘brainy’ but otherwise normal students.

But now Hanna and Gill both looked at them curiously. So did Jenny Gates and Panna Patel in the seat in front of them and Martin and Brian Cully in the seat behind who leaned forward to hear what she was saying.

“I mean that… that I heard them talking,” she tried to bluff. “The gas didn’t affect me so much because… because I was in an air pocket… I…”

But they obviously didn’t believe her. She sighed miserably.

“The gas didn’t affect me because I was able to close off my lungs and recycle my breathing for up to twenty minutes. That’s because I am only part Human. My father comes from another planet where people are able to do things like that. We can also read other people’s minds. And… when everyone else was knocked out, and there weren’t so many other thoughts around me, it was easy to read the minds of the men who were here. They were all thinking the same thing. They were going to contact all the television stations and tell them what they had done. So that the government will be pressurised by millions of people demanding that they pay the ransom and get us back. And they plan to escape to France and from there they’re going to get a space shuttle to the Mars outpost. They’re going to hide out there for a few months and then come back and spend their money.”

“You’re making it up,” Jenny said. “You can’t do that. Read people’s minds.”

“Yes, I can,” Vicki answered her. “I can read what you’re thinking. You believe me, but it scares you so you pretend you don’t believe me. And you, Panna, you’re frightened that you’ll never see your mum and dad again. And Brian, you’re really scared of the dark, but you don’t want anyone to think you’re soft.”

There were collective gasps from those she had named and those nearest to them. And as Sukie had gloomily predicted, the story was passed along through the bus. Vicki de Lœngbærrow was an alien. That idea was more appalling to a lot of them than the fact that they had been kidnapped. Boys and girls stood up from their seats and crowded around looking at her, commenting about how she looked the same as anyone else, and wondering if the school board knew.

“If you can read minds, you can cheat in lessons,” somebody said accusingly.

“I could,” Vicki replied calmly. “But I don’t. I swore an oath of honour never to use my gifts to my own advantage. Besides… whose mind would I read to cheat? Who would have better answers to the questions than I have? I’m already top of the class.”

“Because you can read minds and cheat…”

“No,” she protested. “Because…”

She could have explained that it was because she had a different sort of brain to everyone else and had learnt so much more than they had. But she just knew that would make things worse.

“Even if you’re not cheating, it’s still creepy, you knowing what we’re thinking.”

In all her school days Vicki had never listened to anyone’s thoughts in her class except for Sukie, who she always communicated with. The accusation was unfair.

“I don’t think we’ve been kidnapped for ransom at all,” somebody shouted. “I think the aliens have got us. It’s her family… they’ve got us in a space ship.”

“Don’t be silly,” Jimmy Forrester replied. “It’s an old coal mine.”

“SHE told us it was a coal mine,” Gill pointed out. “Vicki, the alien. We could be kidnapped in a space ship.”

“We’re not in a space ship,” Vicki insisted. “And it’s ordinary humans who have kidnapped us because they’re bad, greedy people. They don’t know or care that I’m part Gallifreyan. They don’t know that my father is a Lord or that my older BROTHER is a cabinet minister. They probably didn’t even know who we were. They just stopped a coach on the road, at random. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They probably don’t even know about…. About…”

She stopped. Nobody listening to her right now was going to be interested in the Psychic Blackspot. She stopped talking. She felt very small and alone as she looked at the accusing faces. She remembered for the first time in ages that she wasn't even twelve years old. In actual years she was only seven.

She was scared.

“Leave her alone.” Jimmy demanded. “Stop picking on Vicki. None of this is her fault. She’s better than all of you lot. I remember when we all started at this school. And you lot were picking on us, calling us aliens. And you knew we weren’t. My dad was killed by the real aliens and Vicki and Sukie were the only ones who cared about that. So… so you shut up, Brian… I don’t care if you’re a third year. I’ll kick you in the teeth and… the rest of you just shut up.”

“What’s going on here?” Mr Burns rushed down the aisle from the back. Mrs Daly came from the front, telling everyone to sit back in their seats. “Jimmy Forrester, are you making trouble?”

“No, he isn’t, Mr Burns.” Sukie said. She stood up and looked at the headmaster steadily. “There is no trouble. Everyone is just a bit frightened. But there’s no need to worry. There is no need to be cross with each other. There are no aliens here. There is nobody to be afraid of on this coach. There is nothing to be afraid of outside. We just need to sit quietly for a little while. Help will be coming.”

Sukie stopped talking and looked around at the frozen faces of her teachers and her fellow students, then at Vicki’s still fearful expression as she sat by her side, small and vulnerable. She hoped she had got the tone of her voice just right. Power of Suggestion was a very precise form of hypnosis and she had only ever used it on one subject at a time before. To convince everyone on the coach that there was nothing to worry about when there very obviously was something to worry about was not easy.

“Yes, of course somebody will rescue us soon.” Mr Burns said. “They must be looking for us. All we have to do is sit and wait. I think we could have the lights on for a little while more. That will help a little bit. Sit down, children and don’t worry.”

Everyone sat down. Sukie breathed a sigh of relief. So did Vicki.

“I’ve got another carton of orange in my bag,” she said. If we all take a little sip….”

Vicki had a sip. So did Jimmy, and the others sitting near them; Gill and Hanna, Panna and Jenny, Brian and Martin behind them. They all thanked her, and Panna shared a packet of sweets. Up and down the coach, other groups of the captive students shared what they had. The bad tempers were forgotten, the accusations and the fear of each other evaporated. It never happened.

Sukie looked to see if she had some sweets in her bag, and it was then that she noticed her laptop under the seat. She picked it up and looked at it. It had gone into stand by mode but when she lifted the lid it came on. She was surprised to see that there was an email from Earl. He wanted to know what was wrong. She typed a reply telling him their situation.

“We’re still in range of the internet?” Jimmy asked in surprise. “Can’t we email the police?”

“No,” Sukie answered. Earl is using…” She paused. She didn’t want to start another panic, and admitting she had a friend in the twenty-sixth century who could send emails retrospectively, allowing his messages to get through even though they WERE cut off from the net, would certainly do that. “He uses a special sort of email. It can get through. But I don’t think anything else will. And the battery is low. I can probably only send one more message after this, anyway.”

The message sent. There was a reply almost immediately. Sukie read it and bit her lip thoughtfully.

“He asked for our GPS position,” Vicki said, reading over her shoulder. “How can we give him that?”

“I think I know,” Sukie answered. She stood up and walked down the aisle to the front of the bus. She came back a few minutes later and began to type again.

“What did you do?” Jimmy asked.

“The coach has a Satnav system,” she said. “With GPS tracking. It was broken. The kidnappers broke it as well as the radio before they got off the coach. But I could still read the last position on it. I can tell my friend Earl exactly where we are.”

She finished typing the GPS code and sent the email. She and Vicki, Jimmy, the two Cully brothers leaning over behind them and the four girls on the other side of the aisle all watched with bated breath as a small green line crossed the screen indicating that the email was ‘sending’. At the same time a warning message flashed to say that the battery was almost dead.

Then there was a beep and the screen went blank.

“Did it finish sending?” Panna asked anxiously.

“I think it did,” Sukie told them all. “I think we’ll be all right. Earl will help us.”

She wasn’t entirely sure how he could help. But it was a crumb of hope. Somebody knew they were in trouble, and if the message had finished sending a fraction of a second before the battery failed, then he knew where they were. Even if he was in the twenty-sixth century, there was surely somebody he could tell. Somebody who could help them.

Sukie had hope. They all did. The fact that she had managed to get a message out was passed down the coach and back again. There was a more positive feeling among the hostages.

It was still a long, difficult time, though. Two hours passed, mostly quietly. Nobody really wanted to talk. They shared the last of their food and drink and hoped. A few of them prayed. Sometimes they talked. Sometimes they made their way to the back of the coach and used the toilet. They waited.

“Sukie,” Vicki said quietly. “If somebody doesn’t come for us soon, I think people will stop believing, and it will get bad again.”

“I know,” she answered. “I think…”

Then she gave a gasp of surprise. She had felt something. So had Vicki.

“Somebody is there,” she said. “Outside. I think it’s…”

“My daddy,” Vicki whispered. “I said he would come.”

“Davie’s there, too,” Sukie added. “And Chris… and….”

There was a noise and then those at the back of the coach cried out in surprise as they saw daylight for the first time in hours.

“Stay where you are,” Mr Burns shouted. “It might be the kidnappers….”

“It isn’t,” Vicki answered him. “We’re being rescued.” She and Sukie jumped up from their seats and ran to the back door. The headmaster called for them to come back, but they weren’t listening. Nor were any of the others who ran after them. They wanted to get away from the coach. They had been stuck on it long enough. They didn’t even care that it was still raining outside. They ran into the rain and danced for joy.

Vicki hugged her father. Sukie hugged her two brothers. Then both of them turned and hugged Earl.

“How did you get here?” they asked him. “You don’t have a TARDIS.”

“Davie picked me up on the way here. He thought I’d want to know you were both all right.”

“What about the ones who did it?” Vicki asked. “Where are they?”

“On their way to jail,” The Doctor said as he hugged his daughter again. “For a very long time, I should hope. I can’t believe what they did to you all… just for greed, for money. Of all the evil…”

“It wasn’t very bad, really,” Vicki assured him. “We were all a bit scared for a while, but mostly because it was dark and we didn’t know where we were. And…” She told her father about how her friends had reacted when she revealed her abilities to them, and what Sukie had done to make it all right.

“Sukie did very well,” he said. “As for the rest… people still need to get used to having non-humans living among them. It’s too soon to expect them to understand. Just you keep your secrets a little longer.”

“I will,” he promised.

“Good girl. Now, go and get your coats and bags. They’re bringing a new coach in to take you all to Aberystwyth. There’s a restaurant booked for a slap up tea for you all. And then, apparently, you’re singing in a choir competition. You go on with your friends and we’ll all see you later at the competition.”

Vicki smiled and ran to join her friends as the new coach arrived. The Doctor watched her and Sukie, with young Jimmy at their side, get on board. Then he turned to where Earl was standing with Chris and Davie. He was going to have to have a long talk with that young man about the Laws of Time. It was definitely bending them to look up the kidnapping on the internet in the twenty-sixth century and then tip the twenty-third century police off about the kidnapper’s hideout. That kind of thing could cause dangerous undercurrents in temporal causality.

But he would probably let him off, just this once.